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Plan Your Trip to Bar Harbor: Best of Bar Harbor Tourism

By Bill M

Bar Harbor, Maine

Located on Mount Desert Island, home of the spectacular Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor is a historic tourist town, offering salty sea air, soft sandy beaches, granite cliffs and a slew of activities for the outdoor enthusiast. A 19th-century resort for the wealthy, the town has several mansions, old majestic hotels and other vestiges of its heyday. Stop by the Hulls Cove Visitor Center to stock up on information about Acadia National Park. Then pick from a wealth of activities: swimming, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, climbing mountains, bird or whale watching, cycling and horse riding. If kayaking is your sport, or you're itching to learn, Coastal Kayaking Tours offers trips for beginner to expert paddlers. Golfers can tee off at the scenic Kebo Golf Club, one of the oldest courses in the US. For a unique adventure, go on a boat excursion with Diver Ed, where you can watch Ed diving 50 feet below on the deck monitor and then learn about the starfish, sea urchins and other sea creatures he retrieves and then returns to their home.

A Bar Harbour trip with toddler in tow

Mount Desert Island’s biggest little town is the go-to home base for travellers exploring Acadia. I made several trips before I had a kid, but with my daughter in the mix, my usual itinerary—full of tough all-day hikes, cute cocktail bars, and chic shops full of breakable things—needed an overhaul. Here, a few of our favourites that still make the cut with a baby on board.
  • Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina
    In Bar Harbour proper, the Harborside Hotel is hard to beat for kid-friendliness. They even have dedicated family rooms with a bunk-bed sleeping space tucked inside a larger king room. The heated pools are great for early-summer visits when the ocean is still knock-the-wind-out-of-you cold, and the resort is just steps from the Bar Island sandbar, which you can cross on foot at low tide.
  • Sherman's Books & Stationery
    A visit to Sherman’s—a Bar Harbour mainstay since 1886, with a hefty selection of toys and games in addition to books—is always a must. Maine-based children’s books make great souvenirs—we love Mrs. Rumphius and The Circus Ship, and you can’t go wrong with a Robert McCloskey classic such as Blueberries for Sal or One Morning in Maine.
  • Ship Harbor Nature Trail
    Acadia’s toughest hikes get all the fanfare, but for a low-key jaunt, I love this quiet trail at the southern tip of Mount Desert Island. It’s a classic coastal Maine landscape through a moss-covered spruce forest, with granite outcroppings, the occasional stony cove, and an easy path with signage that helps children engage with their surroundings. Rocky tide pools are ripe for exploration, and at 1.4 miles, it’s manageable even for little legs.
  • Mount Desert Island Ice Cream
    My kid may be an equal-opportunity ice cream lover, but I have more discerning tastes, and the mass-produced stuff from Gifford’s leaves me cold. This place does small-batch, made-from-scratch ice cream in rad flavours such as blackstrap banana and blueberry sour cream crumble. We like to take a divide-and-conquer approach—one adult stands in line, the other kills time with the kiddo in the Village Green across the street.
  • C-Ray Lobster
    You can’t leave Maine without eating a lobster roll, but it’s easy to get decision paralysis because there’s a quaint lobster shack every ten feet. This is the place you want to go. There’s a covered, heated patio for drizzly days, a lawn where children can run wild, and grilled cheese on the menu for picky eaters. And the lobster roll? Sublime. Griddled bread, not too much mayo, hefty chunks of meat. Just perfect.
  • Cafe This Way
    My new holiday M.O. has me exceedingly grateful for Cafe This Way, where you can snag a table and a strong cup of coffee at 6:30 in the morning, right when the children wake up. The early opening is just a bonus—the blueberry pancakes, with their perfectly frizzled edges and pillowy centres, are the real reason there’s a line out the door.
  • Carriage Roads
    My toddler isn’t exactly ready for scrambling up cliffs yet, so this 57-mile network of car-free carriage roads has become our favourite way to explore the interior of the park. There are a handful of local companies that rent out bikes, plus child trailers or tag-along mounts. Some of the carriage roads—like the route from Eagle Lake to Breakneck Pond—are even pushchair-friendly.

How to do Bar Harbor in 3 days

Panoramic hikes, postcard-perfect lighthouses, and so much lobster
Read on

Explore Bar Harbor by interest

All about Acadia National Park

Carriage roads, hiking trails, and killer sunset spots

Where the wild things are

Animal adventures of every kind

By land, sea, and air

Get a new perspective on Bar Harbour

Coastal charm to the max

Scenic spots from lighthouses to B&Bs

Lobster on the menu

Maine's must-eat from rolls to steamed with sides